Chinese Lantern Festival: Lit Lanterns & Dancing Lions

The Lantern Festival is quite an integral part of Chinese Tradition and Culture. It has been celebrated since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-221AD) and is most commonly conducted on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Calendar. The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the first full moon night, marking the return of spring. It also symbolizes the reunion of the family.

According to Chinese folk customs, most families tend to engage in various activities on the day such as lighting and flying lanterns, guessing the riddles written on lanterns, snacking on Tangyuan (glutinous rice flour balls soaked in boiled water) and of course, lion and dragon dances.

It is believed that by lighting lanterns, one offers prayers that will allow him/her and their family to have healthy and prosperous future. Usually, women who have the desire to be pregnant walk under lit hanging lanterns praying for a child. In this scenario, the lit lanterns signifies illumination of the future and child birth.

The lion dance is considered a traditional folk dance in China. It dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280). The ancient Chinese believed the lion to signify strength and bravery; its power had the ability to drive away the forces of evil, thus protecting the people and their livestock. As a result, lion dances are conducted primarily during important events.

Lion dances are different to Dragon dances, more so for technical reasons. The dancers hold the dragon by poles, hence it is easier to spot the dancers doing the dragon dance as opposed to the lion dance.

Now-a-days, Lantern Festivals are held annually in not only China, but also in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Here are some pictures from my time at the Chinese Lantern Festival.

These photographs were taken by Chikita Kodikal. If you would like to seek permission to use these photos you can send a message by clicking on the contact Messages to Mumbai tab. Messages to Mumbai logo designed by Vidyut and Chikita Kodikal.

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